Boyne Metropolis — My Audi RS3 is hungry.
Hustling alongside County Highway 56 west of Boyne in PERFORMANCE Mode, I stumble upon two slower vehicles. Adaptive Cruise Management slows me to 50 mph behind an SUV however the automotive gearbox doesn’t upshift — holding at 3,500 RPM in 4th gear with all 369 pound ft of torque on the prepared. OK.
On the first damaged heart line, I stomp the throttle. The gearbox robotically downshifts ANOTHER gear to third and the RS3 devours the SUV immediately, settling again into line at 50 mph behind the subsequent sufferer, a minivan. Sensing its subsequent prey (and my willingness to oblige its urge for food), the RS3 extremely stays in third gear — the engine quivering at 5,500 RPM.
BOOM! The minivan is toast within the blink of an eye fixed, the Audi sprinting by at 7,000 RPM redline in 4th gear. The Audi obliterates the subsequent pair of ess turns earlier than I rein it in. The tailpipes crackle and pop, happy burps after a fast meal.
On this period of digital wizardry, the hole between luxurious and mainstream has shrunk quickly. With mainstream athletes just like the $52K Kia Stinger GT, it turns into tougher to justify the $30,000 model leap to, say, a comparable Audi S7. Within the VW Group, the Golf R is the head of V-dub efficiency with sensational dealing with, energy, all-wheel drive. I puzzled if its cousin Audi RS3 — constructed on the identical MQB platform — might justify its $30K premium hike over the V-dub.
It makes its case the old school method: with uncooked pace and depraved appears to be like.
Golf R is a sleeper automobile, a hellion in drag that can shock muscle vehicles at a stoplight. You gained’t acknowledge its signature quad tailpipes till it’s previous you. Ooooooh, in order that was a Golf R! My Kemora Grey metallic RS is about as delicate as a rocket launcher.
That is the junior member of Audi’s RS (brief for Rocket Ship?) household that features the 591-horse RS and RS6 Avent monsters — the latter essentially the most superior station wagon I’ve piloted. Junior RS3 doesn’t wish to be ignored on the dinner desk.
The entrance fascia is roofed in black as if it’s been stuffing its face with asphalt all day. Beneath the hood just isn’t the Golf R’s 315-horse turbo-4, however a mighty 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 making 401 horsepower. The beast wants air — plenty of it — so each inch of the entrance is roofed with intakes, together with heart grille and two large gills.
Then Audi paints every part black — even the Audi rings — for added menace.
Aft of 19-inch black (natch) wheels wrapped in gummy Pirelli P Zero Trofeo R tires is air scoop — shades of the Civic Kind R. Certainly, Audi RS3 has extra styling in frequent with the loud Kind R than the stealthy Golf R. There are large rocker panels and plenty of pretend black cladding and … what, no rear wing?
RS3’s lack of rear hatchback is a disappointment (solely the sedan is obtainable right here, whereas Europe will get hatch and sedan). Rear boot storage is lower than Golf, as is rear headroom. However twin exhaust pipes the dimensions of ship cannons a minimum of give the rear menace just like the entrance. Talking of room, nevertheless, RS3’s 4 doorways are an improve to its equally geared up predecessor: the 400-horse TT RS coupe.
The Rocket Ship’s all-wheel-drive system is as much as job of channeling the engine’s energy.
RS3 not solely needs to play with its massive brothers, it needs to play on the race observe. This can be a track-focused manufacturing automobile just like the Porsche Cayman GTS or BMW M2. Using round city in COMFORT or AUTO modes, and the beast is docile. The driveline just isn’t so laid again. It’s typically on edge — its shifts abrupt, its throttle sensitive.
There may be additionally plenty of turbo lag. Solely at pace does RS3 really feel actually content material because the high-strung PERFORMANCE mode conserving the shift factors excessive within the rev vary.
Over my favourite, M-32 twisty highway in northern Michigan, I alternately used paddle shifters and PERFORMANCE mode — the AWD system rock strong all of the whereas. No torque-steer, no extreme push. A complicated twin-clutch meeting in rear (shades of the fantastic Ford Focus RS observe rat. I miss it so) replaces the previous single-clutch Haldex unit, permitting for true torque-vectoring at every wheel. Take RS to the observe the place yow will discover the bounds of automobile’s limits.
On back-country public roads, the mix of 401 ponies and AWD grip launched me to insane speeds, and I made liberal use of adaptive cruse management to maintain me authorized via small cities and bustling burgs. ACC additionally got here in useful on I-75, the place the system did an affordable job as an assistant driver which allowed me time to be taught the automobile’s ergonomics.
Like Golf R, RS3 is quirky. That’s, it’s practically devoid of rotary knobs.
A haptic touchscreen dominates the console with wi-fi Android Auto (and Apple CarPlay) which I put to good use on my travels north. Local weather? Managed by toggle switches. Quantity management? Transfer your finger in a round movement on an iPod-like button.
Anchoring the console is my favourite function: a chicklet shifter much like Golf R or Porsche 911, which simply selects REVERSE-NEUTRAL-DRIVE with flicks of the wrist. The simplicity is a distinction to the cluttered Audi consoles of previous, with shifter, rotary controller and quantity knob all arguing for house.
Audi has been a pioneer in finding extra info in entrance of the motive force by way of steering wheel buttons (a redundant quantity scroll wheel, for instance) and configurable instrument show. RS3’s cockpit is usually wonderful. An RS3 button sat at my itchy proper thumb able to toggle between DYNAMIC, INDIVIDUAL and PERFORMANCE modes — every altering the instrument RPM show.
My solely beef was that PERFORMANCE mode triggered a clumsy, ladder-like RPM show. Higher is DYNAMIC mode’s horizontal band — like a race automobile.
The RS3 muscle mass its method right into a highly-competitive $60K pocket bull ring that features the Tesla Mannequin 3 Efficiency, Mercedes CLA AMG-45 and BMW M2. The latter is peerless in its dealing with and the Mannequin 3 addictive with its electrical torque — however with all-season AWD, keen engine and aggressive perspective, the RS3 can trash discuss with any of ’em.
Simply ensure and feed it the occasional minivan.
2022 Audi RS3
Automobile sort: All-wheel-drive, five-passenger efficiency sedan
Value: $59,995, together with $1,095 vacation spot charge ($71,390 as examined)
Powerplant: 2.5-liter turbocharged inline-5 cylinder
Energy: 401 horsepower (requires premium gasoline), 369 pound-feet torque
Transmission: 7-speed computerized
Efficiency: 0-60 mph, 3.6 seconds (mfr.); prime pace, 180 mph
Weight: 3,649 kilos
Gasoline financial system: EPA 20 metropolis/29 freeway/23 mixed
Highs: VW Golf R on steroids; RS button
Lows: Quirky management ergonomics, will get expensive
General: 3 stars
Henry Payne is auto critic for The Detroit Information. Discover him at firstname.lastname@example.org or Twitter @HenryEPayne.